Sophie Bold has bright blue eyes, wavy blond locks, a loud giggle and likes to eat her crackers buttered.

But the 2-year-old is small for her age - she was born 14 weeks early and spent the first months of her life hooked up to a monitor with important but colourful lines measuring her health.

Sophie was so little her father's wedding ring could fit around her wrist.

She weighed just 815g, a little more than a block of butter, and doctors at Middlemore Hospital's Kidz First neonatal unit thought she had a 90 per cent chance of severe cerebral palsy.


But Sophie pulled through and now gets a thrill from seeing her face blown up on posters at a supermarket chain that tell her story of survival against the odds.

Sophie is the poster girl for the Countdown Kids Hospital Appeal fundraising campaign, and some of the money will go towards buying Middlemore a new central monitoring unit.

"It was what told us how Sophie was doing - you could look at her, but you can't really tell," her father, Geoff, said at the launch of the appeal yesterday.

Senior medical officer for the neonatal unit Dr Lindsay Mildenhall explained that each of the lines on the unit monitored sick babies' heart rates, the amount of oxygen in their blood, breathing rate and blood pressure.

Most of the babies who used the hospital's CosyCots were ones who made it to full term but were born with respiratory illnesses.

Of the 8000 babies born at the South Auckland hospital every year, 850 need nurturing in the intensive care neonatal unit - only 25 to 50 of those babies are extremely premature like Sophie.